Into the Alpes: Chaillol

From Grenoble I took a bus to St. Bonnet where I was met by my next host, Aime (sitting to the right in the picture below), who lives in a small village near a ski station called Chaillol.  I had met Aimie once before because he is a good friend of Joelle and Daniel’s.  I had also received his email almost a year ago from a Frenchman named Christian (who I met at the John C. Campbell Folkschool) who was kind enough to put me in touch with many of his musician friends.  Christian’s generosity is one of the biggest reasons I have been able to make such wonderful connections here.  Thank you Christian!

In the email I received from Christian about Aime he described a very cozy weekly gathering: “l’hiver nous joueons une fois par semaine dans un gite avec vin chaud et bonne soupe, tu vois ta copine serait aux anges.” (“in the winter we play one time a week in a bead-and-breakfast with hot wine and good soup, you see your friend would be with the angels”)  Sounds like heaven eh?

Aime and his very friendly/lively/fun friends only spoke a little English, which was perfect for me.  We understood each other just fine (expect when Aime started talking about philosophy and other such abstract topics…he would completely loose me, he’d realize and then we’d have a good laugh).

Aimie showed me all kinds of things during my visit: his favorite movies, his collection of books on philosophy, his packed away letterpress equipment from they days he was a printer, his favorite view of the mountains, and the community bal folk dance and potluck they have every Tuesday night.

One day, he took me to this very old, teeny-tiny church covered with stone “dolls.” The story goes that once upon a time there was a man who was deeply in love with a woman and for some reason he was not able to tell her.  Rather than kill himself, he used his frustrated energies to create the odd facade of this rural place of worship.

One of the wonderful things about France is that you don’t have to go very far before you are in a completely different landscape or even climate.  The area surrounding Aime’s small village was sooooo different from any place I had been yet.  It’s even more interesting that different landscapes naturally inform different ways of life for the people who live there.  There are difference cheeses, different wines or liquors, different ways of farming, different ways to build houses, different expressions, accents and jokes.


If you ever happen to find yourself in the Peachtree community, just outside of Murphy, North Carolina, and you see a sign that has a humorous looking sheep (his name is Maurice in case you were curious) balancing precariously on an unraveling ball of yarn you should definitely pop in.  Even if you are not a fiber and color addict you will be offered a cup of tea and, hey, they might even be having an old-time music jam session.  You never know what they’re up to at Yarn Circle.

I should let know here and now that I am somewhat biased about how wonderful Yarn Circle is.  Truth be told, it’s a shop run by my parents and some friends of theirs.  I think it’s just great!

They have what they call “The wall of color” from which you can select from an incredible array of yarns.

It doesn’t stop with yarns, needles, looms, spinning wheels and felting supplies.  They also have awesome hand puppets and even a few of my handmade books.

My dear mother, Martha Owen, has been a professional knitter, spinner, natural dyer and sheep raiser for the past 30 years.  She purchased her first sheep the year I was born.  Her name was MawMaw (tee hee) and she lived until I was 17, a pretty long time for a sheep eh?

Here is some of Mom’s work:  (She teaches regularly at the John C. Campbell Folkschool if you want to learn how to do this yourself.)

And finally, a picture of herself wearing a hand-knit, Fair Isle sweater from her travels:

Book Restoration

It’s been almost a year now that I started apprenticing and working for a wonderful traditional bookbinder and restoration queen, Dea Sasso.  I have learned soooo much from her, both about books and life.  We have wonderful days in her bindery, in the basement of her home in West Asheville drinking tea, sharing dreams and, of course, buckling down to work.

Here are a few projects from the past year:

Sewing A Large Bible Back TogetherDetail of Kozo RepairRemoving End Sheets with a Lifting KnifeTissue Repaired Pages and New Endbands

Dea teaches all over the place and juggles life both in Massachusetts and Western North Carolina.  The most dependable place to find her classes in marbling, book binding, restoration and leather work is the John C. Campbell Folkschool:

Dea Sasso is a professional hand bookbinder, sole proprietor of Light of Day Bindery since 1988, and custom leather designer since 1970. She works on private collections; repairs and restores old books; and designs and creates new books, editions and miniatures. Dea has been teaching in art institutes and privately since 1991. She has an MSPH and has studied and worked for numerous nationally-known hand binders and conservators. Many of her students have gone on to start binderies of their own. She is the Folk School’s Resident Artist in Book & Paper Art, Printmaking, Marbling, & Calligraphy.

Photo Pages of a Family BibleA Bible Before RepairMachine Used for Gold StampingType for Titling